First ever World Table Tennis Middle East Hub kicks off in Doha

Eyes very much focused places in the 2021 WTT Contender tournament in Doha, in the men’s singles qualification second round, prominent names fell by the wayside on Tuesday 1st March; most notably the top two departed.
Egypt’s Omar Assar, listed at no.41, on the current men’s world rankings, was beaten by Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko, named at no.186 (6-11, 13-11, 11-9, 15-13). Soon after in what could lay claim to have been the most intense contest of the tournament to date, Germany’s Ruwen Filus, who occupies the no.42 spot in the global order, suffered by the very narrowest of margins when facing Portugal’s João Geraldo, ranked no.93 (11-9, 5-11, 14-12, 7-11, 13-11).
Defeats for two prominent names; it was the same for two further notables and more disappointment for Egypt. Ranked no.50 and the eighth highest listed on duty, Ahmed Ali Saleh, now 41 years of age, experienced defeat when confronting Croatia’s Frane Kojic, standing at no.90 in the global order. He was beaten in four games (9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7).
Similarly, at no.47 in the world rankings and the sixth highest on qualification phase duty, like Frane Kojic from Croatia, Andrej Gacina experienced defeat when opposing Russia’s Alexander Shibaev (11-13, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5). Presently, Alexander Shibaev appears at no.83 in the order of merit.
Otherwise, for the leading names on men’s singles qualification stage duty it was success, Sweden’s Jon Persson, Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko and Japan’s Masataka Morizono all progressed. 
Imposing performances but if there is one player, in particular, who continues to attract the attention it is Korea Republic’s 18 year old Cho Daeseong. 
Named at no.141 on the present world rankings, on the opening day of action he beat Iran’s Nima Alamian, listed at no.128; one day later he ousted Hungary’s Bence Majoros, ranked no.60. Significantly, he accounted for both in straight games, Nima Alamian (12-10, 11-8, 11-5), Bence Majoros (11-8, 15-13, 11-3).
Upsets as the second round of the men’s singles qualification event progressed; the same stage of the women’s competition was very different, there was just one casualty of note. 
Standing at no.54 on the women’s world rankings, the third highest listed, Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova was beaten by India’s Archana Girish Kamath (11-5, 11-8, 6-11). The 20 year old, who finished in fourth place in the women’s singles at the Buenos Aires 2010 Youth Olympic games is ranked no.135.
Problems for Barbora Balazova, for the remaining leading names in the women’s singles event it was second round success. Singapore’s Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye progressed as did the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova, Korea Republic’s Choi Hyojoo and Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Hsien-Tzu. Similarly, Russia’s Yana Noskova, alongside Manika Batra, like Archana Girish Kamath from India, advanced.
Surprises in both singles events but nothing compared with the mixed doubles. In the final qualifying round, the top two seeded pairs both experienced defeats. India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta and Manika Batra lost to Russia’s Alexander Shibaev and Polina Mikhailova (9-11, 13-11, 13-11, 11-3); Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador and Adriana Diaz suffered at the hands of Italy’s Jordy Piccolin and Jamila Laurenti (5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8).
In fact, of the original top eight pairs in the mixed doubles qualification, only Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov and Giorgia Piccolin reserved main draw places.
The third and fourth qualification rounds of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, to determine in each instance the eight qualifiers, will be played on Tuesday 2nd March.

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